Unlocking Africa's Full Retail Potential

Q&A with Adetayo Bamiduro

Adetayo Bamiduro drives customer acquisition and growth and leads the management team at MAX, a hyper-local on-demand delivery platform for businesses and consumers in urban Africa.

What are you hoping to achieve?

What we are building essentially is a company called Max, but the whole concept is crowd-sourced on-demand delivery, for retailers and merchants in urban Africa. What we’re hoping to achieve is to create an infrastructure that allows merchants to be able to join the whole e-commerce revolution that’s going on across the world. You’ve seen Amazon in the US, you’ve seen Amazon in Europe as well, and a lot of e-commerce platforms in Europe. You’ve seen that trend move to Asia and now it’s moving to Africa. But essentially, small merchants today across Africa – there are about 14 million of them who are at risk if they do not receive the resources and support they need to plug into the new e-commerce trends. So what we are doing essentially is creating hyper-local infrastructure or logistics infrastructure that allows merchants to be able to deliver products to their consumers without any bottlenecks.

What inspired you?

Growing up in Nigeria, seeing how things went bad over a couple of decades; terrible leadership, dictatorships, a mono-economy reliant on only foreign exchange rates from crude oil, are for me, all of those are just bad news.  I began to think, "Ok, what can I do differently to help address it as the country grows and hopefully the whole continent unlock its potential?" And I looked at a couple of sectors and the one most attractive to me was retail, for the simple reason that [it] has the biggest proportion of GDP for Nigeria and most African countries — and also because it has a huge amount of people who are involved. In Nigeria, 30 million people are involved in retail; out of 180 million people, that's a huge percentage. So that, for me, that was what started the project at the beginning. 

What challenges have you faced?

Some of the problems are things around delivery, local authorities for example. So far, because of the sector we’ve chosen and the approach we’ve taken, we haven’t had to deal with law enforcement or regulation. Hopefully, they won’t come after us, but we think we are pretty good. We have a lot of evidence to show the impact we are having on, for example, the people working on the network and the merchants that we serve. Regulation is definitely a concern.

The second concern has been finding local talent. The technology platform we are building is not… the frameworks and the technology components are not really being used a lot in developing countries right now. In Nigeria, for example, most developers use what we call the LAMP architecture, which is pretty old — PHP, MySQL type stuff — which is not optimized for cloud-based applications. But in the US you have on demand platforms like Uber, Lyft, and the rest of them, which are all built on what you call the MEAN architecture … which are optimized for cloud platforms, so finding that kind of talent locally has been a huge challenge.

We’ve been able to build the platform because my team is all US educated Africans, but to scale and increase that development team has been quite a challenge. What we are trying to do now is build our own talent internally so we are bringing on board developers with experience in the old LAMP architecture and training them on the MEAN [architecture] ... and hopefully we can scale our platform.

What did you learn from the Symposium?

It’s really exciting seeing all the ideas that are being executed in different parts of world; from giving access to small businesses and start-ups in Asia and India [...] to ideas on how to unlock human potential in places like the Philippines. For me, it’s a reinforcement that people are really trying to execute ideas on the ground. We are moving beyond just concepts and theories. My dad is a statistician, [who] did some work for developmental agencies, and he came up with all sorts of reports. I watched him do that over many decades, but each time, I would say, “Hey, dad, you know, the more reports you churn out the worse Nigeria’s economy gets. You know, your reports aren't making any impact.” And he would laugh.

What I’m excited about now is we are moving beyond reports and publications, to people are actually executing ideas on the ground and taking a risk. Some of these ideas may not ultimately succeed but if you don’t take any shots you don’t win any. So it’s really exciting and reinforcing for me personally. Seeing people do exciting stuff in other parts of the world, that keeps me going.